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Bolten returns the affection, earnestly testifying to Bush's "clear level of interest in policy issues" and "clear focus on the things he wants to do as a leader." In the coming weeks, as Gore steps up the assault on Bush's record and proposals, Bolten's job will be to help Bush fight fire with fire. A year and a half spent building a policy foundation for the Bush candidacy could come down to whether Bolten's man has the right answer during a single 30-sec. exchange in the middle of a televised debate with Gore. When that moment comes, Bolten will be like every other Bush supporter--a spectator crossing his fingers. Because no matter how good Bolten's product is, it will be up to Bush to deliver.
--With reporting by Karen Tumulty with Gore, and Tamala M. Edwards/Nashville